The best place to store coffee beans is in an old bank vault.
Absurd, yes – but it’s the new reality for locals in Pitcairn with the opening of a new gathering place: The Vault Coffeehouse. A welcoming scent of espresso stands as a gateway to delicious coffee and entertainment in the small town and it’s bringing people together like never before.
“I was not a coffee person. Ever.”
At least, that’s what Milo Speranzo, owner and founder of Vault, will tell you. Fortunately, this soon changed when he joined the United States Air Force. After he was stationed in Colombia, South America, for an extended period of time, Speranzo was introduced to real coffee tasting. “I think it was less the taste of coffee and more the romantic aspect of it all,” he recalls. ”We would go to these small farms and drink coffee. So I love coffee.”
In the years to come, this love of coffee would define Speranzo’s endeavors to change the world around him. During the pandemic, he decided to move back to his old stomping grounds from Washington, D.C. – and it was nothing like he remembered. Over the past two decades or so, people had moved away from his hometown of Pitcairn for better jobs and it seemed as if the community’s heart had vanished. With a desire to help the town and a love for coffee, inspiration struck.
“It was a no-brainer: coffeeshop.”
Speranzo’s journey, which had been fifteen plus years in the making, was finally coming to fruition. But his love for coffee alone couldn’t run espresso machines, take orders, and operate steaming wands; he needed a crew. Through the Pittsburgh grapevine of extended family and friends, Speranzo met Eibhlin McCune. Eivy, as her friends know her, came into Vault as a manager, wrapping several years of coffee experience into a sturdy, bountiful bow.
From food sourcing to making Vault’s signature drinks (like the Dessert Deposit cold brew and The Robber latte), Eivy found many freedoms in helping build the cafe from the ground up. She was able to work with many small, local businesses like Patti’s Pasticceria and Commonplace Coffee, who were more than happy to share their stories. “It’s a cool opportunity to be able to talk to other Pittsburgh small businesses to see how they’ve built themselves up – and they give good advice. They’re great people,” Eivy says.
Community is what Vault aims to build. It brings people together in a warm, inviting atmosphere. Speranzo, who was raised by the Pitcairn neighborhood, believes that “proactive engagement in knowing your neighbors…and group planning” is really what community is all about. At the Vault, visitors can enjoy live music on Wednesday evenings or read books from the community library.
Moreso, the community is finding friendships and connections they didn’t have access to before. “We have so many employees who lived on the same street who never knew they lived on the same street as each other. It’s very cool that we get to introduce people who have never met,” remarks Speranzo.
This summer, you can expect themed drinks to cool down and wake up on those hot, humid Pittsburgh days. Look out for the S’mores and Apple Pie lattes as well as the new Ice Cream Sandwich latte created by Vault barista, Amber. Or, try fan favorites, like the Lavender Haze and Pistachio lattes – served hot or iced – and couple them with a freshly baked caramel toffee scone or caprese roll.
The coffeehouse is heading for a bright, local future. “Coffee is the greatest excuse,” says Speranzo. And in a town where there are no excuses, the coffeehouse has created a collaborative escape for both old and new members of the community to share and thrive in. Speranzo plans on expanding his business to other local communities and is already on the hunt for abandoned banks he could rob for another Vault Coffeehouse.
Every town needs a place where the community can come together. In Pitcairn, The Vault Coffeehouse is the space where locals are excited to visit. Friendships are formed, artists are fostered, and coffee is enjoyed: the Vault is open!